New 911 Call Center Built in Houston in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

April 29, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and surrounding areas in 2017, it eventually left behind more than 27 trillion gallons or rain and caused damage in excess of $125 billion.  During any emergency situation, 911 call centers are typically running at overflow capacity, so when Harris County’s primary call center was flooded, operators had to be relocated and calls rerouted, causing much longer wait times as agents were handling 3,000 emergency calls per day.

To avoid similar situations in the future, Harris County built a new call center in northeast Houston that will come online tomorrow.  County officials believe it will be able to withstand even the worst weather incidents, being elevated and designed to withstand Category 4 hurricanes with winds up to 155mph.  Not only did the location not flood during Harvey, but in the event power is lost, the site is supported by three backup generators and two UPS units.  It even includes laundry and sleeping facilities for operators, if needed.

“We won’t lose operations for just about any disaster,” said Harris County Sherriff Ed Gonzalez said. “Obviously, there’s always that one that is unforeseen that we just didn’t think about, but by and large, with anything that we would see, storms or anything, we should be sustainable.”

The new facility also features a next-generation 911 system with VoIP phone system, a significant upgrade from the old analog system, which will allow calls to be routed more efficiently.  It will also enable better collaboration between emergency services teams.

While Harvey was an unprecedented situation, smaller disasters and more frequent and power outages are a regular occurrence for any number of reasons.  Harris County has taken preventative measures to avoid business outage, which is something any business should do.

While full backup generators may not be feasible for all organizations, cloud-based services and power protection systems can provide critical business continuity when power goes out.  Cloud-based communications services allow employees to relocate anywhere that hasn’t lost power to remain functional. 

Power protection systems are designed to prevent damage to on-site technology, including servers, switches, and firewalls, which can easily be damaged by power fluctuations.  These systems monitor and regulate incoming power, cleaning it and delivering consistent voltage to all connected systems to ensure none of the circuitry is damaged.  In fact, power has a tendency to fluctuate – not necessarily accompanied by an outage – so these systems are a necessity for every business to ensure systems remain operational and damage doesn’t lead to extended business downtime.

Edited by Erik Linask